Social Scientist. v 17, no. 188-89 (Jan-Feb 1989) p. 79.

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A Note on Agrarian Transformation in an Inegalitarian structure

India inherited a highly inegalitarian land structure from the colonial rulers who heavily depended on the rural aristocracy for political support. The feudal elements were the bulwark of British Raj and benefited most from colonial rule. The leaders of the nationalist movement, while drawing the peasantry into the freedom struggle, were not hostile to the landed interests. Consequently even when when the zamindari system and other intermediary interests were abolished no land redistribution as such was undertaken in the post-independence period. The ceiling laws that were subsequently enacted were quite liberal towards the landowners and their implementation was largely left to a bureaucracy which itself was closely allied to them. The result was that out of 3 million hectares of land that could be declared as surplus only 1.7 million hectares could be distributed. A fair part of this land is unfit for cultivation; about half is involved in litigation and the distributed land does not form even 1 per cent of the cultivated land in the country. The land that was declared as surplus was the most inferior land of the landowners as the ceiling laws stipulate that the landowner will surrender land of his choice. It is well known that the bulk of the cultivable waste land is under the possession of large landowners. Hence they would surrender only such inferior land and took every opportunity to challenge the acquisition proceedings even of such land.

Table 1:


Size Class Percentage Percentage (Hectates) of Holdings area

Below 1 57 12

1-2 18 14

2-4 14 21 4-10 9 30 10 & Above 2 23

Total t00 100

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